BEND, Ore. - The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries confirmed Tuesday it has launched a new investigation involving gender discrimination against the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, the third in recent months.
Deputy Jennifer Gaspard filed a complaint with the agency on March 3, alleging she and other female employees have been passed over for several positions in favor of less-qualified men.
According to the complaint, Gaspard was hired in August 2006 and is currently a correction deputy in the jail.
Gaspard said in the complaint there are fewer than 10 women who work in her department and none are ranked higher than deputy, the lowest rank in the agency.
"I believe that this is due to respondent's (Deschutes County Sheriff's Office) pattern and practice of failing to recruit, hire, train and promote female employees, or to in any way support their advancement, as it supports and promotes its male recruits," Gaspard said in the complaint.
Gaspard said before getting hired at the sheriff's office, she worked at the Linn County Sheriff's Office and the Oregon Department of Corrections.
"I have applied for a number of promotions over the years and have been consistently been passed over in favor of less qualified males," she said in the complaint.
She also said she didn't complain at the time because she needed her job and "maintained an optimistic approach toward the gender disparities in the respondent's (Deschutes County Sheriff's) Office."
When Gaspard applied for the position of programs deputy, the complaint states there were nine applicants, and Gaspard was one of the two finalists. The job was given to a male employee with less qualifications.
Gaspard said in the complaint she asked one of the supervisors involved in the hiring decision why they decided on a less-qualified male employee.
"The supervisor told me that the male candidate has scored better in the interview portion of the application process," she states.
She said there is an "unwritten policy" to make work life difficult for female employees.
"The spectrum of incidents and occurrences reflecting the de facto policy of discrimination has ranged, in my experience, from discouraging my use of a breast pump when I returned from maternity leave to reluctance to discipline or address a co-employee who was verbally harassing me with gender-based remarks and derision," she said in the complaint.
This is the third complaint that has been filed recently against the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office with the Bureau of Labor and Industries.
On Oct. 11, Lt. Tim Leak filed a harassment complaint. He has been on unpaid leave since May. On Oct. 19, Crystal Jansen, a sheriff's office jail deputy, filed a gender discrimination complaint. Jansen stated in the complaint Sheriff Shane Nelson was discriminating against her because she was a female.
BOLI spokesman Charlie Burr told NewsChannel 21 the investigation could take up to a year.
"We will be conducting a full, fair investigation to determine whether substantial evidence exists of unlawful discrimination," Burr said.
Deschutes County Sheriff's Office Capt. Paul Garrison said Tuesdasy the agency was aware of the complaint filed.
"The sheriff takes these allegations seriously and it would be thoroughly investigated. When there's available information ,a more thorough statement would be supplied during that time, " he said.
Gaspard's attorney,Philip Emerson, declined to comment about the complaint because of the active investigation.
Here are the complaints filed with BOLI as provided to NewsChannel 21 by the agency: